Part 2 of posts about our 18-day trip to celebrate our 10th anniversary. Click here to read all the posts!
Our second stop was in London, where we spent three and a half days, which really is no time at all in London. I planned this portion of the trip for months in advance. I had a very long list of sites I wanted to see, and that list was ultimately cut in half due to time constraints. And we still didn’t see everything on my itinerary!
But now we have a reason to return, right?
On our first night in London, we checked into our hotel and then headed to Old Spitalfields Market, a lovely market with vendors selling all sorts of goods. Then we headed to Dennis Severs’ House, which I was really excited to see. Because I wanted to keep some of the mystery of the house alive, I didn’t read much about it beforehand, and I didn’t tell Joseph what it was. What I did know is that it’s a beautiful townhouse restored to reflect life of 18th Century Londoners. The tour is a private, silent self-exploration. No cameras. No talking. Just walking among the creaky floorboards, taking in the surroundings and imaging the life that might have been lived there.
It was unlike anything we’ve seen elsewhere, and we both profoundly enjoyed it. I highly recommend scheduling a visit to Dennis Severs’ House, especially if you’re interested in the private lives of the past. This house place you up close and personal with a previous time period like nowhere else I’ve been.
We started the next day with a leisurely walk towards Westminster Abbey, passing Buckingham Palace in the process. Behind the scenes: Me standing with my camera at my face, finger on the shutter release, waiting for the flag to wave just so. Joseph stands nearby, bored. As you can tell (by the umbrellas as well as the smudge on my camera lens), it was a rainy morning in London.
We spent over an hour in Westminster Abbey, but no photos are allowed inside. It’s a beautiful building with memorials to so many people, from Charles Darwin to Queen Elizabeth I to Lord Byron to Jane Austen.
We spent the rest of the day exploring various places in the city, including the British Library and British Museum.
We spent another cold morning at the Tower of London. It really was very cold and windy that day.
We caught one of the free Yeoman Warders tours. You might have heard these tour guides referred to as their nickname: “Beefeaters” (origin of that name unknown, but many different theories exist). The tour was an hour long and incredibly informative about the different English historical figures who have ties to the Tower of London. It was really interesting to me because I studied English history (specifically the Tudor Court) in college. Joseph says he enjoyed it, though I suspect it was an hour of names he didn’t recognize or care about.
And then a jaunt across Tower Bridge to the other side of the Thames. The bridge is really beautiful!
We had a delicious lunch of a Turkish dish called pide at TAS, right next to Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. Unfortunately, I think we were too tired and hungry to remember how to smile for these photos.
And then… Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. This was a highlight of our trip for both of us. Joseph and I are big fans of live theater, as well as Shakespeare! I studied Shakespeare a lot in college (I’m one of those obnoxious English lit majors who references Hamlet in real life). Our tour guide was wonderful, and he did a great job of making the Bard’s words sound exciting, relevant, and new.
Being in the place where Shakespeare’s works were originally performed was surreal for me. I was surprised to see how ornate the stage is decorated – so much wood painted like marble! It puts the productions in a whole new context for me. I would love to see a performance here someday.
This was a really good day. We walked a LOT, and we were freezing. But I got to see some incredible things! Like one of my favorite paintings, Lorenzo Lotto’s Portrait of a Young Girl Inspired by Lucretia at the British Gallery. When we lived in Italy I took a course in Italian Renaissance art, and I fell in love with Lorenzo Lotto’s work. This one was my favorite, and I’ve been waiting 7 years to see it in person. I’ve studied the hi-res scans online a dozen times, but there’s something amazing that the scan can’t capture. The portrait is so luminescent, and there were details I’d never noticed before, like the delicate gold lace on the back of her dress.
Here she is, framed beautifully in the middle of the room. The look on my face in the [blurry] photo of me? That’s pure joy. I was overcome!
A few other paintings I liked: